Southern Lehigh Bests Palisades 30-14
By Don Leypoldt
To run in the Nov. 5th Bucks County Herald
How hot was Corey Sroka on Friday night at Palisades?
So hot that even when the senior Southern Lehigh quarterback made a rare miscue, it turned into a touchdown for his Spartans.
Facing a 4th down at the P-35 midway through the fourth quarter, Palisades standout CB/RB James Stanell picked off a Sroka (12 for 21, 213 yards) pass- Stanell’s second interception of the game.
In one of the weirdest plays of the 2009 season, Stanell was promptly stripped of the football by Southern Lehigh WR Jeff Smillie (6 catches, 111 yards) who took it 22 yards for a Spartan touchdown.
The score gave Southern Lehigh (7-2), the 30-14 lead which they wouldn’t relinquish against 5-4Palisades.
“Big plays. A big touchdown pass down there and a play where we had an interception and they took it away from us,” assessed Palisades coach Brian Gilbert. “Against a team like (Southern Lehigh) you can’t have mistakes like that.”
The Pirates struck first. Stanell’s first interception- occurring early in the first quarter- gave Palisades the ball at the P-35. Stanell (16 touches, 90 yards) burst up the middle for a 21 yard run and caught an 18 yard aerial from QB Adam Hardy before ending the drive with his six-yard touchdown run.
The Spartans tied it on the first play of the second quarter; Sroka connected with Smillie on a 12 yard touchdown toss. The Pirates responded with a methodical 63 yard drive that ate up over 7 minutes of clock. Twice, Hardy hit WR Hunt Rose (4 catches, 47 yards) to convert third downs.
On a fourth and goal, Palisades lined up in a power wishbone formation. Hardy nailed TE Will Hess with a three yard play action touchdown pass.
“It’s off a run set, play action. The tight end dragged across and it was a nice throw, nice catch,” Gilbert offered.
Sam Terlingo’s field goal cut the Palisades lead to 14-10. After forcing Palisades to go three and out, the scrambling Sroka hit Smillie down the sideline for a late 59 yard touchdown pass. The 17-14 halftime lead made the Spartans, well, smiley.
“Most of it is designed,” commented Sroka, who by feigning handoffs, avoiding sacks and buying time enabled Southern Lehigh’s pass game to be successful. “We’re a wing-T program and we like to try and get up, make plays on the edge and get outside.”
Defenses took over after the intermission. Sroka connected with WR Dylan Anderson (2 catches, 24 yards) in the corner of the end zone to put the Spartans up 24-14.
“We’re all friends outside of football,” noted Sroka on his wide receiver corps. “We worked hard together all summer and in the offseason, lifted weights together and have been together every single day. We’ve formed a nice chemistry.”
An Anderson interception- one of five Pirate miscues on the evening- killed a late drive.
Palisades was held to just 34 yards in the second half.
Southern Lehigh currently sits in the fourth and final spot of the District 11 AAA playoff seedings. Palisades can take comfort in knowing that their post-season ticket is punched.
The Pirate offense scored at least 20 points in their first eight games. Despite a tough schedule- the four teams that defeated Palisades had a 28-5 combined record at press time- the Pirates cliched a playoff berth last weekend. They will most likely be a six-seed in the eight team District 11 AA tournament.
There is a good chance that the Pirates could have a first round playoff re-match with Colonial League foe Catasauqua, who bested Palisades 31-21 on September 18th in Kintersville. Hardy ran or threw for over 200 yards in the game.
The dangerous Stanell broke the 1,000 yard mark- and also caught a 63 yard touchdown pass- in last week’s 27-0 thumping of Notre Dame. He recently had a five consecutive game stretch where he ran for over 100 yards, averaging over 7 yards a carry in the process.
Hardy ran for over 500 yards in Palisades’ first five games but lately it has been his arm doing the damage. Against Notre Dame on October 23rd, the senior threw for 180 yards for the second time in three weeks. Wide receivers Josh Parris and Rose combine with Stanell to give Hardy multiple targets- and give Palisades a balanced offense in the process.
“We see what the defense gives us is how we play call,” said Gilbert. “Whatever the defense gives us, we try to take.”
Palisades closes the regular season hosting Saucon Valley, who is coming off of a 44-7 struggle at the hands of powerhouse Wilson. Southern Lehigh battles Salisbury, who stands at 3-6 but has won all three of their games by at least 27 points.
Southern Lehigh has momentum going into that final game. Palisades may need to re-group after tonight. But working on game plans- in preparation for a playoff run- is a nice problem to have.
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